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311 looks to mix things up tonight at Clyde

Veteran group looks to mix it up at Clyde Theatre

311 will be at The Clyde on Sept. 11.

Alan Sculley

Whatzup Features Writer

Published August 31, 2022

311 frontman Nick Hexum is well aware that many bands that have been around more than 30 years, like his group, have made releasing albums a rare occurrence, or they have essentially quit making new albums altogether.

This happens for a couple of logical reasons: 

A) Veteran bands can tour on their back catalogs because fans come mostly to hear the songs they know.

B) Albums don’t sell in today’s world of streaming and downloads, which makes it hard to justify spending the money and time it takes to record new material.

But 311 is one long-running band that has bucked that trend.

They will be playing old and new material when they visit The Clyde Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 11. 

Exploring creativity

311 have released 13 studio albums since 1993, with their latest being Voyager in 2019. The three-year span stands as one of the longest stretches without a new 311 album. Of course, having a pandemic that has prevented touring for much of that time makes the gap between albums perfectly understandable.

For Hexum, 311 has very good reasons to want to keep the creative engines pumping.

“I think if a musician believes that his creativity has peaked, and it is all in the past, well then, that’s going to be the reality,” he said. “For some reason, we still believe in our hearts that we have just as exciting music or more than ever (to make). We are aware that we have been doing it for a long time, so that kind of went into the urgency of like, ‘Hey, people are still really excited for our new music. Let’s keep doing it while this window is open.’ ” 

If anything, 311 have been feeling a creative rebirth. Hexum looks back on 2017’s Mosaic as an album that opened doors creatively and put the band on a path that will keep the group inspired for some time to come.

“With Mosaic, we kind of broke open this new feeling where, ‘OK, we’re going to make a certain part of the album classic 311 with the riff rock and the hip-hop incorporation,’ ” Hexum said. “And we’re also going to have some departures that are new sounds that you’ve never heard before, because otherwise, you’re like, ‘Well, we don’t want to completely leave our old style, but we can’t keep doing the same thing.’ So, we realized, all right, we’re going to do both (things).”

To that end, Mosaic took 311 into new stylistic places on a few songs and also featured some modern production touches that were new to the group.

Hexum said Voyager found the members of 311, which includes drummer Chad Sexton, bassist P-Nut, guitarist Tim Mahoney, and vocalist/deejay SA Martinez, taking the exploration of elements to a new level. 

“We (took) that even further on (Voyager), which has some new styles that you haven’t heard from us before, modern production, just getting into new territory,” Hexum said. “Then you’re going to have super-classic, heavy riffs. It’s something for both people. 

“I think true 311 fans love when we explore, but they also wouldn’t want us to completely leave our roots behind. So, we’ve kind of settled into having this kind of dichotomy of two sides of our band. It seems to be really working well.”

New territory

Hexum cites the dubstep-inflected “Too Late” from Mosaic as an example of a song that broke new ground on that album. Voyager has that element in the mix as well.

“What was cool about the song ‘Too Late’ is it just kept getting harder and harder, and rocking harder and harder, until people are just like breathless at the end of it,” Hexum said. “We don’t want to repeat ourselves, but just to explore that (idea), where you kind of start out with something super chill, and then it goes through this build. Then you have this drop that is super rocking, and then at the end of the song, you have a bridge followed by another bridge with a completely new section that’s higher energy and higher energy. 

“I think any band, when they kick open a new door, you’re going to want to continue to explore that. This feels as satisfying as ‘Too Late’ did.”

Finding right mix

How many songs from Voyager get played night to night is an open question. 

“We try to come together after sound check each day and hammer out a set list,” Hexum said. “We’ll kind of do it when we get there.”

The trick, Hexum said, is to craft a show that has a good mix of older songs that fans want to hear, as well as newer material, while creating a nice flow to the show.

“You have to find that right balance,” he said. “That’s something that we discuss a lot, and occasionally disagree. But fortunately, we have an odd number of band members, so if it needs to come down to a vote, it will. But most of the time we just kind of talk it out and reach a consensus.”

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